135 Journals Book Club: Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings

7 Apr


The All-female  scribes of the fantasy kingdom of Alethkar probably wrote like whoever wrote this page of the famous German epic, the Nibelungenlied. (Wikimedia Commons). I dare you to prove they didn’t.

I haven’t really read much fantasy in my adult life, except for Harry Potter. I guess I didn’t see the point of reading about some made up world—this current one seems to have enough geopolitical controversies and points of interest that I can’t even make sense of IT, never mind deal with a whole new world. Also, these novels all look the same on the covers, and they also look really fat. Am I up for 1,000 pages of fake medieval epics when there are actual real ones I could read?

The answer, I am surprised to say yes. I have to say I did fall in love with the TV show Game of Thrones. Somehow I felt willing to engage with all of the different kingdoms and who among us does not love Khaleesi? There are even BABIES named Khaleesi. http://www.dailydot.com/lifestyle/americans-name-daughters-khaleesi-game-thrones-daenerys/

Hey, you could do worse. It’s better than say, “Mildred.” The Sexposition is also awesome. I love when some highborn lout is simultaneously quaffing a golden goblet of mead and vigorously disporting with some barechested wench and a herald comes in and says, “M’lord, the enemy is approaching on the western front!” It’s just so efficient, like brushing your teeth, eating a Hot Pocket, and taking your shower at the same time.

So,  I have opened my eyes to the possibilities of the fictional worlds of fantasy. My eyes were opened further when my son Moses explained why he loved the book The Way of Kings. I asked him why and he said that it was long enough to allow slow character development. You see a character in action, and his or her actions can seem odd, yet intriguing at first, hinting at a deeper story, and while there is plenty of action on the surface, there are also complex undercurrents that have to do with their past lives as well, which come out later, in a natural, unfolding manner. He also liked that characters made mistakes and had to try many different approaches to get things right. This is a wonderful quality in fiction writing and in life. For example, one of the three main plotlines is about a character named Kaladin, sometimes called Kaladin Stormblessed, a low-ranking nobleman from an obscure part of the empire of Alethkar, who keeps going through all kinds of dangers but never gets seems to get killed. He spends much of the book as a prisoner assigned to move portable bridges for soldiers to cross chasms to fight their strange enemies, the Parshendi, who have the ability to grow their own armor. Kaladin has failed to keep other of his colleagues alive in the past, but throughout the book, he struggles to find a way to keep the men who work on Bridge Number 4 company together and to help them survive—something that his training as a surgeon’s son has taught him. But it is interesting to see how he has to win over hearts and minds and bellies (apparently, I learned from a Talks@Google Lecture, stew is something of a meme in the fantasy world—apparently there is no rough heart that can not be tamed by a hearty bowl of stew—and this book is no exception. Once all the men eat stew together, they are best buds) of the bridgemen.

Another plotline involves a young noblewoman named Shallan Devlin. There are different kingdoms and I am amazed at how the people of different ethnicities actually do have names that sound as if they come from a certain place. In this world, Shallan has come to a famous city to try to study with a famous scholar, Jasnah Kholin, sister of the Alethi king, Elkohar. In this world, only women are scholars, and they are the official scribes (sometimes they write side notes to each other which they do not report to men—a nice detail). But as much as Shallan wants to become the devotee of the scandalously atheistic scholar Jasnah, she also has a more devious mission—she has to come steal a magic orblike object called a fabrial, which can hold the power of storms, that she knows the woman possesses. That is because her father was a bad man who died and she needs it to save her family. She admires Jasnah, she loves her family—instant conflict!!

The third major player is Highprince Dalinar Kholin, father of two princes Adolin and Renarin, who has strange visions of a lost world and a message—“Unite them!” that he can’t ignore. Even though he was eager to fight the Parshendi in the past, he is now feeling that something is not right now—and that something is connecting him to an unexplained past.

Of course, there are the typical plot devices one sees in many good books. Time to gather up recruits for the army? Have the cruel overlords choose take Kaladin’s goofy little brother, Tien. So Kaladin, who has been training to be a surgeon like his dad, joins up too, to protect him. Kinda like Katniss in Hunger Games. But whatchagonnado?

Some of my favorite features of this world are “spren”—it’s sort of hard to explain what they are because they come in all kinds of different manifestations. They are in a way forces of nature, such as hungerspren, painspren, windspren, etc. A very unusual windspren named Sylphrena takes an interest in Khaladin and encourages him in his darkest moments. The main animals that are farmed are crems, which are like large crustaceans. They mainly pull things. Nobody seems to think they’re delicious. They ain’t no lobstah dinner.


Another benefit to reading a fantasy book is that one gets some delightful new swears to add to one’s vocabulary. For example: the word “Storm” is used in many different contexts. “Storm it!” “Cremling!”

Also, I now insist that Moses calls me “Your Brightness,” as I feel I am a member of the nobility. Insisting is not the same as getting. But at least he laughs.

Now, according to the Stormlight Wiki, (http://stormlightarchive.wikia.com/wiki/Stormlight_Archive)

this book weighs in at a hefty, a mighty, a staggering 389,544 words. And yet, this is supposed to be the first of ten books. Will I be along for the ride? Storm it! I may have to pull up to the fire and eat many bowls of stew, but it is possible that I will not be able to resist the many unfolding mysteries of this strange and lively world. Especially since Moses just ordered me of Brandon Sanderson’s book number 2, Words of Radiance.


Writing Prompts: Have you ever tried any fantasy novels or other unfamiliar genre? What did you think?


3 Responses to “135 Journals Book Club: Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings”

  1. Kaffiend April 7, 2014 at 3:31 am #

    Who among us does not love Khaleesi? Me! OK, I haven’t seen the TV version, just read the books. I did love Khaleesi in the first book. As each book went on, though, I got tired of her. Each chapter title is the name of the person it focuses on; by the last book or two, every time I saw Daenerys as the chapter title, I cringed and forced myself to get through it. Although I’ve gotta admit, Daenerys Targaryen, Stormborn and Mother of Dragons, is a kick-ass name!

    As for fantasy books (and their cousins, sci-fi), I rarely read them, but every now and then they’re a fun escape. I did get hooked on the Game of Thrones books but they, like Daenerys, began to pall as the series went on. I still love(d) some of the characters, but the author’s inability to bring the story threads to any kind of resolution (other than killing people off) got irritating. I loved the Hobbit books. Does The Once and Future King count? Does Hunger Games? Maybe not. Harry Potter, of course. I’ve read a few others but can’t think of them off-hand.

    The series you’re reading sounds fun, but Games of Thrones is enough for me for a while. Hmmmm. You mentioned a Kaladin Stormblessed? Sounds a lot like Daenerys Stormborn AKA Khaleesi . . . Enjoy!

  2. Kaffiend April 7, 2014 at 3:33 am #

    Hey! This thing says that I posted my comment April 7, 2014, at 3:31 am! Wrong! It was April 7 at 11:31 p.m. It’s four hours ahead of time. That’s perfect for a fantasy novel, eh? Time travel!

    • Alexandra Hanson-Harding April 10, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

      Uh oh, I think I have to fix something. Another computer learning experience. Thanks for telling me, Kaffiend!!

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